Tag: sacrifice

True Giving

True Giving

Luke 21:1-4

As my siblings and I have grown up, we have been able to work and earn our own money. This is lovely as it means I get to bless, thank and honour my siblings and parents (and now niece and nephews too), but there is also a pressure that comes with that – the pressure to buy a really good present for each of them! This doesn’t come from an external pressure, but from within me. We often say, “It’s the thought that counts” but deep down I still worry that my present won’t be as good as the one I am given by my parents or that my sister gives to my brother. I know that I have done my best and given them a present worth the amount I can afford but it still upsets me if I cannot afford to give a present of a ‘good’ amount.

In this passage in Luke 20:1-4, Jesus was at the temple and saw rich people putting lots of money into the money box, maybe giving 10-20% of their income to God. Then, a poor woman came and put all the coins she had left into the money box. She gave 100% of what she had. Although the amount was less, relatively, it was much more and would have affected her more than the 10% the rich people were putting in. It is likely that they would not have noticed that money going out of their pockets, but the poor woman may not have been able to buy food that day because she had given all her money to God.

This reminds me that it isn’t what I give at Christmas, or the rest of the year round, that matters, but that it is sacrificial – that is what makes it special, if not to people, then it certainly does to God. So don’t worry if the presents you give don’t seem up to scratch, or if the people you give them to don’t seem grateful, don’t worry about it. God saw and He knows what you have done in that sacrifice and will bless you for it!

The cost of being Jesus’ follower

The cost of being Jesus’ follower

‘Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me but loves his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters—or even life—more than me, he cannot be my follower. Whoever is not willing to carry his cross and follow me cannot be my follower. If you want to build a tower, you first sit down and decide how much it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job. If you don’t, you might lay the foundation, but you would not be able to finish. Then all who would see it would make fun of you, saying, ‘This person began to build but was not able to finish.’ “If a king is going to fight another king, first he will sit down and plan. He will decide if he and his ten thousand soldiers can defeat the other king who has twenty thousand soldiers. If he can’t, then while the other king is still far away, he will send some people to speak to him and ask for peace. In the same way, you must give up everything you have to be my follower.‘ – Luke 14:25-33

Life has its challenges but overall, I love it! I love spending time with my family and seeing friends, reading books, watching films, walking the dogs, eating nice foods, good music, doing arts and crafts, playing guitar and singing, ice skating, and much more! When I wake up in the morning, even on a bad day, I look forward to what I am going to do. Sometimes, that is walking the dogs and seeing friends and sometimes it is reading and lots of sleep. Whatever it is, I do my best to have a good day and make it one for others too!

We have been given the gift of life to enjoy so it is not wrong to love life, but as Jesus says in Luke 14, it is wrong to love it above God. When we get so stuck into the things we love that we forget God and even idolise those activities, then we are living life the wrong way. “In the same way, you must give up everything you have to be my follower”. This doesn’t mean you can still love life and the things you enjoy, but it is important to recognise the reason we have these things is God’s gift of life, love and provision and without Him. When you are doing something you love, take a moment to remember the One who made it possible and thank Him for it.

Preparations

Preparations

When this subject first came to my mind I didn’t feel I could blog about it because in the Christian calendar, we often associate preparation with the end of the world and Jesus coming back again, not Christmas. But with major Christmas adverts already on the TV, light switch ons taking place around the country, Christmas food in the shops, Christmas songs starting to squeeze onto the radio, we cannot deny that Christmas is on the way and with it, all the busyness and preparations it brings.

In my household, Christmas food, music, decorations and movies (other than the cheesy Hallmark movies on TV on a lazy Saturday evening), aren’t allowed until 1st December. That doesn’t mean there is nothing Christmassy going on behind the scenes though throughout these weeks leading up to then. My family are preparing the mixture for the Christmas cake, looking at where to get our Christmas tree, organising which local events to attend, budgeting for presents, designing cards and working out when we can visit family.

Besides Christmas, I am in a time of preparation right now in my personal life and with regards to YouBelong. At the end of this month, I leave my office job to focus on YouBelong and improving my health. It’s exciting but there’s so much I want and need to do that it has become a bit overwhelming.

I mentioned at the start then when I think of preparation from a Christian perspective, my brain automatically goes to Jesus second coming. But Lent is also a time of preparation. Traditionally, Christians use up perishables such as eggs, milk and butter, ready to fast for 40 days. Fasting is used by many Christians, and people of other religions too, as a way to focus on God in the days, weeks or months leading up to a big event or moment so as we can pray to Him about a particular thing with an element of sacrifice and without distraction.

After all that has happened in 2019, all the encouragement, affirmations and prayer, I feel more strongly than ever that I am making the right choices around leaving work and using my time to do YouBelong, despite it not being a financially secure, simple option. But as I head into this time of preparation, God feels far away and silent. This brings doubt to my mind. Am I doing the thing God wants me to do or is it what I want to do? Is that why God isn’t talking to me? If God isn’t making it very clear that He is with me in this, is it right to be plowing ahead?

For a long time, this has concerned me but someone very important spent 40 days in the desert, the same person who we fast for, and it was in this time that God was silent. Jesus was alone. He was challenged and faced conflict, doubt and extreme hunger and thirst but still God didn’t show up. But at the last moment, when Jesus pointed to God the Father saying, ” Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. ” At that point, God sent His angels to tend to Jesus and after that, He came back into the towns and villages and the miracles and wonders of Jesus started flowing bountifully!

My plans haven’t worked out, but God’s have. When I sit down to take steps forward, doing careful planning and trying to do the right thing, I don’t get anywhere. But when I sit back, and allow God to take control, He brings the right people to me at just the right time and shows me where to go next and gives me glimpses of what the future will be.

Sitting back and doing nothing over the Christmas period might mean we go without Christmas dinner, our family don’t get presents and the house doesn’t get decorated but in our lives, preparation can be just as, if not more, successful, when we sit back and wait on God to do His thing. If you are heading into a busy time in your life, or perhaps you feel like God is far away, maybe He is preparing you right now for something big and you need to take some time out to be with Him in the silence. Maybe try fasting – it doesn’t have to be food. Giving something up like watching TV in the evening, going on social media etc. are all things we can give up and that when we think of them, we can instead pray to God and listen for His direction without distraction.

There is more to think about, and some action points from Joyce Meyer here if you want to dig deeper into this topic. And if you are going through a time of preparation, I would love to hear from you so we can travel down this road together.